Monday, July 28, 2014

I Told the Truth

In general I consider myself an extremely honest person.  I don't hold much back.  I express my opinions pretty openly except in rare scenarios.  I struggle with emotional vulnerability as much as the next person but in general I'm honest.  But not long ago I came to the realization that I simply wasn't being honest about some parts of my life.  

I've done a lot of therapy work and learned there's two different types of things we don't share, those that are secret and those that are private.  Secrets we don't share from what I call our 'shame motivators' we shouldn't be this way or have done this thing or have this struggle so we don't share.  Private things we don't share because we have decided this is personal and valued and treasured and sacred.  It's an important process to learn what is secret and what is private.

I tend to be a rather bull-headed, stubborn person.  I'm Irish, yep.  It's one of my endearing qualities.  Well perhaps not.  But it is part of my enduring qualities, if I were not as stubborn and fierce as I am, my children and I would be in a far worse situation than we are at this juncture and I am thankful for that.  My stubborn, fierce nature also has allowed me to create fences, boundaries and walls around my life in an effort to protect my family.  Those were necessary, essential for survival.  Some of them are still necessary and essential for survival.  They help me discern what is private and what is not, who to let in and who to not, what to share and what to not.  

Nevertheless, some of those boundaries became blurred because the person who made them (me) began relying on them because she was ashamed not because she needed to keep things sacred.  I have held tightly, in a zombielike death grip, to the private daily nature of my personal financial struggles.  I. DO. NOT. SHARE. THAT. WITH. ANYONE.   

At first this decision came from a place of ownership and health.  When my ex and I separated 2.5 years ago, I went from stay at home mom land to single motherhood land in the course of 3 hours.  The weight of providing for my family hit me like a ton of bricks.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  I had been out of the working world for 8 years.  I had next to no marketable skill that I was aware of and my children were 6, 5, and 2.  I was scared to death.  I was convinced I would never be able to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.  

In a very typical, stubborn Shannon fashion, I put my head down and set about figuring it the fuck out.  And in the time that has passed some hard ass shit has gone down.  I'm not sure I can ever adequately describe the absolute panic I have experienced over not having enough gas money to drive my sick child to the doctor or the depth of the sense of personal failure I have had when not being able to buy groceries.  I can not put into words the sense of desperation this mother has felt at knowing I'm down to my last $7 and having no idea where the next $7 will come from or when it will come.  

But while all of those things are tragic, what is perhaps equally as tragic is that I almost never tell anyone when things are that bad.  I especially don't tell certain people.  I craft blog posts that make it look like that's the way I used to live, when in reality, that's exactly how the last two months have been for me.  I make excuses for why I can't do things that cost money instead of being honest and saying "I don't have money for that." Ultimately, I have used boundaries as excuses for dishonesty.  I tell myself, it's no one else's job to fix this but me, so no one else needs to hear about it but me.  I have isolated myself from those that can support me emotionally and while the financial stress takes its toll, being alone in it is so much worse.  

But recently in an almost accidental fashion, I told someone I love how bad things were for me.  As soon as I started the conversation and I began to walk down the path of sharing panic surged through me, failure and shame threatened to drown me if I continued to speak honestly and within mere minutes of opening my mouth I was following it up with phrases like "It's not your job to fix this" and "I don't want your pity" also "I'm sorry I don't know why I told you that."

I wish I could tell you immense freedom has followed in the days that have passed since I told the truth.  I wish I could tell you I'm not walking around feeling ashamed and like a failure and panicked this week, but those would all be lies.  What has happened instead? 

I've told the truth a few more times when people have asked me.  "So how are you making it?"  I have said "I'm not, I can barely keep food on the table."  I have watched their discomfort at hearing me speak the truth and sat with our mutual discomfort and wondered maybe this is why I don't tell them.  I've found a safe friend who can't help and I don't mind telling how bad things because he knows what it's like to solely often barely provide for your children.  But to be honest sharing with him can be a cop out.  It doesn't cost me any risk.  Although it does lighten my burden emotionally, a huge benefit.  

Part of the reason I don't tell people is because of pride, that stubborn Irish girl that inhabits this body doesn't want anyone to think she's asking for help.  God forbid she be labeled as asking for a handout.  She would rather die than be viewed that way.  It kills me every time my parents help me and they're my parents, I can sort of jump through some mental hoops of making that ok.  But beyond them, I. just. can't. even.  

I have begun to see just what an emotional disaster this stress makes of me.  I have begun to see just how edgy and jumpy I get.  I have begun to see that I can't do school work when I'm like this.  I have begun to see just how small my world shrinks because all I can think about is how to get the next thing I need for my family.  I have begun to see that the way I'm handling this is wrecking my life

So I'm praying for the grace to speak truthfully from now on.  I'm praying for the grace to say to those in my inner circle, "I'm sorry but until I figure out where the groceries are coming from this week I can't listen to your romance saga.  I care about you but I have to take care of my family right now."  

This all feels like walking around wearing sandpaper for clothing.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Single Perpetually

Journeys are funny things.  The twists and turns they take.  How we end up where we are only to take another step and head somewhere else.  I like observing the journey, both my own and other people's.  I'm not always a fan of just living in the middle of it not knowing what will happen next but as an Open Theist I believe there is an infinite range of possibilities of what could happen.  God is there guiding, hoping and helping us, but the choices are ours.  For sure our life will not just be impacted by our own choices; an often unfortunate fact is that other people's choices wildly impact our life as well.  Sometimes we rage and stomp our feet that this is so and other times we're so thankful that someone made the choice they did.

My journey has been convoluted, a mixed bag of good and bad choices.  Blessing and curse.  Some of the good choices were mine and some of the bad ones were as well.  And sometimes other people's bad choices really negatively affected my journey.  It's very difficult to come to terms with that, peace is hard won in those situations.  It takes work to forgive. (there's a whole lesson here in forgiveness that it's work and not a light switch)  But different times someone else's good choices really positively affected my journey, in ways that I totally have not deserved.

Shortly after my marriage ended I swore off remarriage completely.  I decided f this; I got life.  On my own.  No more men fucking up my journey.  I got this.  (You don't have to be married for other people to affect your journey, it took me a bit to figure that out.)  I got this.  I softened eventually and was okay with dating, but still held this core belief that dating was it for me.  Ever going beyond that just wasn't happening.  I could never trust someone enough to let them affect my life that profoundly again.  It was not worth the risk.  I dated, I learned a lot about myself and about other people.  I really haven't shared anything about that part of my life here except a casual reference because frankly the world is full of judgers; I don't need more critics in my life I have quite enough.

Time passes and things change.  I met an amazing man, fell in love and we made.... wait for it ---plans for our shared future together.  Gasp, shock.  This was not in my cards.  Because as my belief system states the cards were in my hands and I had not planned on a future joined with anyone else permanently.  But I thought he was awesome and I fell into safety and security.  Perhaps exactly what I needed at that time.   More time passes, more things change, more things that you want to change don't.   That relationship ended.  It was heartbreaking and devastating.  I was angry and hurt and confused.  I raged quite a bit at God.  Because after all, I wasn't going to let this happen in the first place.  Why would He let me fall in love only to have my heart broken so completely?  I don't have a lot of answers to those questions except to say the cards were always in my hands.  I may have made decisions based on what another person said or did but they were still my choices.  I participated in my own heartbreak by sharing my heart with another.

Isn't that exactly what we do every time we share our heart with another person?  We participate in risk and our own possible heartbreak.  We let someone in and they can hurt us.  The power to wound is immense.  We are often not careful enough with our words, and actions and commitments when we hold a piece of another person's heart.  I'm not referring to someone else here folks.  Me!  I'm not careful enough!  Hearts are fragile beautiful wonderful imperfect things and we should feel tremendous honor when another person shares even a piece of theirs with us.  I confess I also wish I felt more honored when I share mine.

Time passes again.  My journey twists some more.  I find myself viewing my future, viewing myself in a different yet vaguely familiar light.  I confess, I still see myself as perpetually single.  It's hard for me to revert back to the idea of joining my life with another person permanently.  But now I have come to the place where I see my inability to do that in a positive light.  Because I'm not sitting here planning out a future with a man, instead what I'm doing is sitting here working toward my own future.  Because I don't sit around a daydream about babies or weddings or rings or whatever (all fantastic things please don't get me wrong) I have time to daydream about one day publishing my book.  I love babies.  Weddings are beautiful and I'm a woman, seriously?  Jewelry rocks.  But not having an idealistic notion of a future that includes a person that may or may not want to be a part of my future is freeing for me.

Instead of that I have taken a different approach, a far from perfect, probably a little jaded approach.  I also believe it's a healthy approach for me.  My approach is this now - I'm Shannon, here's my life and here's where I'm heading with it.  If you want to join in on my journey that's great but that's not going to change or distract me from where I'm heading.  I have found for me that future planning can be such an extreme handicap to relationships.  However conversely I have found that avoiding future planning in your life is also an extreme handicap.  

So I'm planning my future.  I'm working toward it now.  There are people who I love and care about that are present in this part of my journey.  I am so thankful they're here.  But they all know very clearly that relationships stay in the moment and the future I'm planning is my own.  Perhaps I'll be doomed to perpetual singleness because of this self first approach to my life.  But I'd like to think instead I'll be respected as a woman who knows what she wants and works for it.  It's not selfish to have goals and not want them to be derailed, however it is codependent to make another person your goal.  Life is sweeter when shared with people.  It's also more complicated, but to have someone to laugh with and cry with is a huge blessing.  But having a person be your goal puts too much pressure on them and too much pressure on you to adapt to them.  Make your own goals, your own future, your own life and if someone wants to join in with you on that, that's fantastic for both of you.  If however they can't hang, that's their loss.  It's okay to prioritize yourself.  By doing that the journey becomes a lot more enjoyable, whether perpetually single or madly in love.